Good afternoon Insiders, happy Harry and Meghan-week. Sigh. It’s been a long one but it’s Max Goldbart here cutting through the noise and bringing you the royalest news and analysis of the past seven days.
‘Hazza & Meg’
Trailing trouble: The majority of the British public and Twitterati appeared to find the first three episodes of shock Netflix Harry & Meghan doc just a bit of a damp squib when the loved-up couple dropped their highly-anticipated show yesterday morning. Of more interest was the goings-on around the doc. The week started with a duo of trailers and boy were they spicy, black-and-white images overlaid with La La Land’s favourite Prince declaring “I had to do everything I could to protect my family” and other comments of that urgent ilk. It wasn’t long before that and a subsequent trailer were being picked apart by the British media, however. Veteran Royal Commentator Robert Jobson was quick to point out that a shot supposed to illustrate press intrusion was actually taken from an accredited pool with just three journalists allowed in, while other clips/images that were supposed to show the couple being hounded by the ‘press pack’ were in fact taken from the Harry Potter premiere, Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and even a Katie Price court appearance. While trailers have undoubtedly been using this method since the dawn of TV time, the move left a sour taste with a British media pack that – as we heard over and over again in the documentary – are deemed no friend by the happy couple. The irony was clear for all to see.
A right Royal response: Well so far, nothing. And the question of whether Harry’s fam back in the UK were given prior sight of the doc is one that hasn’t really been answered. While the doc starts with a cool disclaimer stating “Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series,” connected BBC Royal Correspondent Jonny Dymond understood the family had not been asked for comment. Neither Netflix nor producer Archewell had spoken on this at time of writing, and it was also tricky obtaining answers over how footage of ‘that’ BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana made its way into episode one, after the BBC declared it would never license the footage following the fallout from last year’s explosive Dyson Report. Harry’s remark that Diana was “speaking the truth of her experience” in the Panorama interview was completely at odds with the Royal Family’s line that it should be expunged from all existence.
Damp squib: Bar some choice remarks about Brexit and repeated lambasting of the media, the show, as discussed, fell a bit flat. ‘Straightforward Romance Lacks Real Royal Dirt’, according to our star reviewer Stephanie Bunbury’s take, which is well worth a read. The reality is that ‘H & M’ are for large parts trading off a story that has already been told – at least three times in public already. Once the viewer grasps that the trip to Botswana, the long distance woes and the meeting with ‘grandma’ are going to be retold in painfully-loved-up detail, they are left wanting more, but not really getting it. It’s hard to know whether Meghan would have preferred this week’s launch to have been her completely-unrelated Netflix animation series that now sits in the can, rather than another rehashing of a personal story. More incoming when episodes four to six drop next Thursday but are viewers already tired? And in the longer term, what next for the pair?
Red Sea Draws Curtain
Star power and grit: Mel Goodfellow’s dispatch from a bustling Red Sea International Film Festival here as the event closed on Thursday with a star-studded ceremony attended by the likes of models Naomi Campbell and Toni Garrn, with actor husband Alex Pettyfer, as well as French cinema icons Isabelle Adjani and Gaspar Noé. The storylines of the prizewinners were starkly contrasted with the glitz and glamor in the room, with Iraqi-British director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji’s Hanging Gardens, about an impoverished, young Baghdad garbage picker who adopts a discarded American sex doll, winning the best film and the cinematic achievement prizes. This mix of star power and indie grit felt present throughout the festival, as the management team led by CEO Mohammed Al Turki attempted to strike a balance between putting the international spotlight on the event and simultaneously fulfilling the core remit of helping build up the local film industry. Edition two was bigger, starrier and smoother than last year. The raft of celebrities who jetted in, topped by Sharon Stone, Shah Rukh Khan and Spike Lee, suggested attitudes towards Saudi Arabia and its human rights record are thawing. Human rights activists suggested on the eve of the festival that the country was using events like the Red Sea to launder its reputation – while authorities continued to hold mass executions and stamp out dissent – and it felt symbolic that the World Cup all the while rumbled on in neighboring Qatar. A number of high-profile guests, meanwhile, said people need to come to see the pace of change and reforms for themselves. The international industry was also out in force. Wild Bunch International co-chief Vincent Maraval summed up for all and sundry when describing the “huge growth potential” to be had in Saudi Arabia as well as the whole MENA region during an industry talk. Full coverage here.
Buzziest boutique in town: Former Troika Director Harriet Pennington Legh set up London-based Lark two years ago and the firm has quietly gone about acquiring an enviable list of clients (Joanna Hogg, Sebastián Lelio and Charlie Covell to name a few), while signing former Casarotto and 42 rep Sophie Dolan and longtime Independent Talent agent Roxana Adle. The three agenting dynamos are now leading one of the buzziest boutiques in town and they sat down with Andreas Wiseman earlier this week for their first big interview since setting up. Go deeper here to read about how the company came about, what the industry can expect from the trio and how they view the shifting landscape.
Nice to meet Viu
Being nimble: Southeast Asia’s Viu could be one of the more impressive streaming services you might not know. Launched seven years ago by Hong Kong telco and media group PCCW, the SVoD is holding its own across the region against the global giants. Our Asia expert Liz Shackleton set out to investigate how by catching up with Viu Asia content chief Marianne Lee (pictured), who talked her through Viu’s nimble and hyper-localized content strategy and lent her general thoughts on the industry. “Our audience is young and they’re digital natives. They may have skipped over that pay-TV stage and moved straight into watching content on their mobile phones,” she explained. Click here and read more – you know you want Viu.
The Way Of The Future
BBC and ITV face forwards: Huge week for the future of British public broadcasting as both the BBC and ITV planted their flags for the coming years. In a set piece speech, smooth BBC DG Tim Davie unveiled his blueprint for an internet-only BBC, which he said could be the reality in a decade. “Fewer linear broadcast services and consolidating activity under one simple, single brand – ‘the BBC’” was Davie’s proclamation but the move will take cash and the BBC doesn’t have much. This coming the day after new UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said it is “impossible” to sustain the current funding model as is. Just quite how the BBC can embrace the blueprint without “burning millions of pounds” is Tim’s question that still needs answering, but he was resolute that the corporation doesn’t “simply drift to the point where the emergence of vast U.S. and Chinese players marginalize us while we put on a very British brave face as they do so.” Tough talk. This morning’s star appointment of former Fox Chair Gary Newman to the BBC Commercial Board felt telling. Over in White City, ITV was rolling out new streamer ITVX across millions of homes in Britain – the revamped ITV Hub that kicks off with a £160M cash injection, thousands of hours of content including Damian Lewis’ thriller A Spy Among Friends (pictured) and a one-premiere-a-week commitment. Content Boss Kevin Lygo told me the public will “take a while to find, understand and fall in love with” the new streamer, but speak to any ITV exec and this is the thing that is getting them out of bed in the morning.
🌶️ Hot One: Piers Morgan’s Killers has been set at Fox Nation, the latest under the Talk TV loudmouth-in-chief’s global deal with News Corp and Fox News Media. Our new Investigations Editor Mr Jake Kanter with this one. Welcome back Jake!
🌶️ Another One: Taron Egerton is starring in and exec producing Firebug for Apple TV+ with Black Bird creator Dennis Lehane, per Andreas and Nellie.
🌶️ God it’s hot: Jim Belushi and Christina Ochoa have joined the cast of combat drama Fight Another Day. Mel had the exclusive.
🍿 Box office: Parasite auteur Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17 revealed release date, per Anthony D’Alessandro across the pond.
🤝 M&A: Stop it Fremantle. Another week, another buy for the RTL-owned outfit as I brought news of the acquisition of This England producer Passenger.
🤝 More M&A: Banijay Americas picked up Brazilian TV and film producer A Fábrica.
🏆 Awards latest: Charlotte Wells’ powerful Paul Mescal-starring debut Aftersun swept up at the BIFAs, per Zac’s piece.
🏆 More awards: To Australia for the AACTAs, where Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was the big winner.
🏆 Awards, awards everywhere: BAFTA unveiled a “revitalized” film awards including the final four categories airing live. Wishing the new production team good luck…
🏪 Setting up shop: Shadow of a Vampire exec Richard Johns, who launched Argo Films.
🌊 Way of Water: James Cameron was in London town to present the Avatar sequel. Our Baz Bamigboye hosted the red carpet.
🚪 Exiting: Unrelated to the documentary drama, Archewell President Mandana Dayani is stepping down, replaced by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex following an “amicable and planned transition.”
🖊️ Signed up: Zac broke the news of UTA signing South Korean filmmaker Na Hong-Jin in all areas along with his Forged Films shingle.
And finally: Channel 4 paid tribute to the “wonderful and generous” PR exec Lesley Land, who died unexpectedly a week ago. Lesley was a “wonderful friend, a generous colleague and made tremendous fun wherever she went,” according to a C4 statement, which highlighted the numerous incredible PR campaigns helmed by Lesley. Anyone who met her would concur with the C4 statement in the strongest way possible and tributes flooded in on social media. Deadline’s thoughts go out to Lesley’s family.
Mel Goodfellow contributed to this week’s International Insider.